EPA's Proposed Carbon Pollution Standards are Legally and Technically Sound

America is building cleaner cars, more efficient freight trucks, and smarter power systems.

Wind power was the top source of capacity additions for new electricity generation in 2012, with states like Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, Iowa, Minnesota, and Colorado leading the way.

Yet even as American companies build cars that are leading the world in fuel economy and saving families money at the pump, and as innovative new wind turbines provide zero-emitting electricity for all of us and a stable income source for farmers and ranchers, the supporters of high-emitting coal power claim that it is not capable of deploying advanced technologies to cut carbon pollution.

On September 20th, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed Carbon Pollution Standards that will provide the first nationwide limits on carbon pollution from new power plants. The Carbon Pollution Standards could be met through clean renewable energy resources or fossil fuels such as an efficient combined cycle natural gas plant or coal plants using carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology to control their carbon emissions.

But coal’s boosters have attacked the long overdue EPA standards, asserting that coal is unable to use modern technologies. Last month, Majority members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee sent a letter to EPA asking the agency to withdraw the proposed standards.  The letter argues that because three of the coal plants currently being built to use CCS receive funding under the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct), EPA cannot rely on those plants to support its determination that CCS is an adequately demonstrated technology and the best system of emission reduction for coal-fired power plants.

As this legal analysis shows, EPA’s proposal is technically and legally sound.

Although EPAct provides that an innovative technology supported under that Act cannot by itself prove that the technology is adequately demonstrated, EPA relied on a broad body of evidence beyond the three EPAct-funded plants in identifying CCS as the best system of emission reduction for coal-fired power plants.

EPA’s finding that CCS is adequately demonstrated is in line with what the power industry itself has said.  American Electric Power’s former CEO and president Mike Morris had this to say about the company’s Mountaineer CCS project in 2011:

We’re encouraged by what we saw. We’re clearly impressed with what we learned and we feel that we have demonstrated to a certainty that carbon capture and storage is in fact viable technology for the United States and quite honestly for the rest of the world going forward.

There is no time to delay our transition to a clean energy economy. The United States experienced twelve separate climate disasters in 2012 each costing over a billion dollars, and climate change continues to impact the health and wellbeing of our families and communities every day. As the success of clean energy and energy efficiency programs across our country demonstrates, the solutions are at hand. We have but to deploy them.

While coal refuses to innovate, the world is turning toward cleaner energy. Earlier this year the U.S. and World Bank announced that they would no longer finance dirty coal projects abroad. Meanwhile, the wind farms continue to crop up across America’s heartland.

As a Midwesterner, I am thankful that there is a bolder vision for America – of engineers, welders, fabricators, and inventors, working together, who know that we can and we must make clean energy our future.  For our sake, and for our children and grandchildren.

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